In a recent column in Tablet magazine, Yale University professor Eliyahu Stern claims that Orthodox Jewish leaders consistently ally themselves with fascism out of the fear of Communist ideology, even when the fascists are murderously anti-Semitic. Stern claims that the rabbis choose this team out of their deep fear of Jewish apostasy. His ultimate target, of course, is any Jew who voted for U.S. President Donald Trump, and (needless to say), the president, who is obviously a brown shirt himself.
Stern begins by acknowledging that Orthodox Jewish leaders vocally condemned the murder of 11 of their (non-Orthodox) co-religionists in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, 2018. But then, he spends the rest of the article trying to prove that they really didn’t and really shouldn’t have—given their true beliefs—and that they didn’t really mean it, all because, as Stern knows best from his perch in New Haven, Conn., the Jews who really need protection are the materialist, leftist Jews from Donald Trump and the right. Days after the Democratic Party gave an official pass to the crudest anti-Semitic attacks heard in the halls of Congress in decades, and weeks after the Democratic Party placed an avowed enemy of the State of Israel on the House Foreign Affairs committee, Professor Stern thinks the only thing that Jews really need to be protected from is “The Orange One” and the people who voted for him, and that Orthodox Jews cower in Trump’s shadow because they only care about frum Jews; the rest can be left to die or be attacked by white supremacists.
As I suspect Stern knows, most of the Jews living in the State of Israel aren’t frum, but the only people in America who seem to care whether Iran builds a bomb to murder them all are Republicans. President Barack Obama gave Iran a free pass to build a nuclear bomb in the not-too-distant future, and $150 billion to use in the meantime to fund terror around the world, especially on (and across) Israel’s borders. That’s a far greater danger to Jews, the Jewish state and Western civilization generally than a gaggle of rednecks wearing bed sheets over their heads.
As if they were the only ones fooled, Stern savages Orthodox Jewish leaders in the 1930s, who thought communism was a greater threat to the Jewish people than Hitler. Stern’s sotto voce suggestion is that these rabbis did, in fact, prefer 6 million dead Jews to the ideological poison of atheistic communism. The reality, of course, is that neither these rabbis nor almost anyone else could have imagined the true extent of Hitler’s murderous plans. Suggesting that these leaders acquiesced in the Holocaust because they thought 6 million dead Jews was better than 6 million Reform Jews or 6 million non-Jewish Jews is a vile lie. But that’s essentially Stern’s argument.
Perhaps the most telling point comes from the Twitter account of David Duke. We can all agree that he’s the embodiment of evil, can’t we? He’s a white male and a certified white supremacist. And he’s a big supporter of Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and her attacks on the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
It behooves the Eliyahu Sterns of the world to ask why that is. The Jews who voted for Donald Trump did. They allied themselves together not because they’re content to see secular Jews suffer and not because they’re white supremacists. They voted that way because, instead of living in an academic hot house, they’re paying attention to the forces abroad in the world, to where threats are really coming from and their comparative strength, and to how the most dangerous threats can actually be opposed.
When white nationalist gatherings in the United States draw fewer attendees than a “My Little Pony” convention, thoughtful people realize that white nationalism is not the most dangerous force in the world. When the Democratic Party appoints avowed enemies of Israel to leadership positions—and when they not just fail, but explicitly refuse to condemn Jew-hatred—thoughtful people pay attention. And then there’s Eliyahu Stern.
Jerome M. Marcus is a lawyer and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.